As winter enthusiasts eagerly anticipate the snowy landscapes, the desire to master the slopes grows stronger. Yet, to truly perfect the art of skiing, one must go beyond the skis and embrace a comprehensive strength and conditioning training programme. Skiing requires a blend of power, endurance, balance, and agility, and neglecting proper training can leave you fatigued, wobbly, and susceptible to injury. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of ski-specific strength and conditioning training, exploring targeted strategies to enhance performance and minimise the risk of common skiing injuries.
The Need For Specific Skiing Training
Skiing is a dynamic sport that places unique demands on the body. The combination of downhill descents, quick turns, and varied terrains requires a finely-tuned musculoskeletal system. Incorporating a ski-specific strength training program not only improves performance but also plays a crucial role in injury prevention.
Lower Body Strength and Power
The powerhouse behind every downhill run lies in the lower body. Quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes are heavily engaged during skiing, demanding strength and power. Integrate exercises such as squats, split squats, Romanian deadlifts, lunges, and step ups to target these muscle groups. Emphasising explosive movements such as olympic lifts, box jumps, and med ball throws will enhance your ability to generate force, crucial for navigating steep slopes and accelerating out of turns.
Core Stability and Strength
Skiing requires constant adjustments in balance and posture. A strong core helps you maintain a stable centre of gravity, allowing you to react quickly to changes in terrain and adapt to different snow conditions. A strong core also acts as a bridge between your upper and lower body, transferring power efficiently during turns and manoeuvres. This translates to smoother, more controlled skiing and increased speed. Engage in exercises such as dead bugs, back extensions, side plank hip drops, pallof presses, and wood chops to strengthen the core.
Skiing not only requires strength, power, and stability, but it also requires excellent endurance. Ski trips often involve hours of skiing, with numerous runs and chairlift rides. Good endurance allows you to maintain your energy throughout the day, maximising your time on the slopes and minimising fatigue. Additionally, steeper slopes, longer runs, and variable snow conditions demand more effort. Endurance helps you power through these challenges and maintain control. Include exercises like cycling, running, or rowing to build cardiovascular endurance. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) may also help to simulate the intermittent bursts of energy needed during skiing.
Skiing comes with inherent injury risks, notably affecting the knees, ankles, and hips. Strengthening the muscles surrounding these joints is vital for injury prevention. Include exercises like lunges, single leg deadlifts, calf raises, and hip abductions to enhance joint stability. Additionally, balance and proprioceptive exercises on unstable surfaces can improve overall joint awareness, reducing the risk of sprains and twists. Plyometric exercises such as depth jumps are also important for strengthening your tendons and ligaments making them more resilient to the impact forces encountered while skiing.
Example Strength and Conditioning Session
|Sets x Reps
|Single Leg Depth Drop
|3 x 3 ES
|3 x 3
|4 x 5
|3 x 12 ES
|Single Leg RDL
|3 x 8 ES
|Flat Dumbbell Press
|3 x 8
|Bulgarian Split Squat
|3 x 10 ES
|Single Arm Row
|3 x 8-10 ES
|4 x 400 m
Common Skiing Injuries and How to Prevent them
Prevalence of Skiing Injuries
The lower extremity accounts for the majority of skiing injuries (43-77%), with knee injuries, particularly ligament injuries, being especially prevalent. Upper extremity injuries are also common, accounting for 14% of all injuries, with the shoulder, thumb, and wrist being particularly vulnerable. The head and neck are also at risk of injury when skiing (13% of injuries), although helmet use has reduced the incidence and severity of these injuries (Davey et al., 2019; Flørenes et al., 2019).
|Possible Strategies for Prevention
|Strengthening quads, hamstrings, glutes, and adductors. Improving hip and knee stability. Improving ability to absorb/resist forces on the knee.
|Barbell squats, reverse nordics, romanian deadlifts, nordic hamstring curls, split squats, depth drops/jumps, single leg jumps, copenhagen planks
|Rotator cuff strengthening. Improving shoulder and thoracic spine mobility.
|Banded internal/external rotations, YTWs, scap push-ups/pull-ups, banded dislocations, cat cows, thoracic rotations
|Strengthening and stretching of forearm muscles.
|Wrist curls, reverse wrist curls, reverse curls, zottman curls
|Strengthening calf muscles and tibialis anterior. Improving ankle mobility and stability.
|Calf raises, tibialis raises, pogos, single leg hops and bounds
Other Considerations for Injury Prevention
- Warm-Up Routine – Prior to hitting the slopes, warm up your muscles and joints with targeted mobility and activation exercises. This prepares your body for the physical demands of skiing and reduces the risk of injury.
- Proper Technique – Take lessons from certified ski instructors to ensure you are using proper skiing techniques. Good technique not only improves your performance but also reduces the likelihood of injuries. Learning how to fall safely and how to recover from unexpected situations is crucial for injury prevention.
- Equipment Check – Ensure that your skiing equipment, including skis, bindings, boots, and poles, is in good condition and properly fitted. Faulty equipment can contribute to accidents and injuries. Regularly check and maintain your gear, and consult with a professional for adjustments or replacements as needed.
- Appropriate Gear – Wear appropriate protective gear, including a well-fitted helmet, goggles, and wrist guards. Helmets, in particular, can significantly reduce the risk of head injuries in the event of a fall or collision.
- Know Your Limits – Be aware of your skiing abilities and avoid attempting runs or manoeuvres that exceed your skill level. Pushing beyond your limits increases the risk of accidents and injuries. Progress gradually and challenge yourself within a safe range.
- Weather and Terrain Awareness – Be mindful of the weather conditions and the state of the slopes. Poor visibility, icy surfaces, or variable terrain can contribute to accidents. Adjust your skiing style accordingly, and stay informed about the current conditions.
- Stay Hydrated and Well-Rested – Maintain proper hydration and ensure you are well-rested before hitting the slopes. Fatigue and dehydration can impair your judgement and reaction times, increasing the risk of accidents.
- Listen to Your Body – Pay attention to any signs of fatigue or discomfort during skiing. If you feel tired, take breaks to rest and recover. Continuing to ski when fatigued increases the risk of mistakes and injuries.
Taking your skiing to the next level isn’t just about perfecting your turns on the slopes. It’s about building a strong and resilient foundation through dedicated strength and conditioning training. By incorporating ski-specific exercises, you’ll not only enhance your power, endurance, and control, but also minimise the risk of injuries that can derail your season. Remember, a well-rounded approach is key. Combine targeted workouts with proper technique, appropriate gear, and a healthy dose of awareness so you can conquer the slopes with the confidence of a prepared athlete.
Davey, A. B., Endres, N. K., Johnson, R. J., & Shealy, J. E. (2019). Alpine Skiing Injuries. Sports Medicine, 39(12), 1037-1053.
Flørenes, K., Myklebust, G., Haugaa, K., & Ingebrigtsen, T. (2019). A Narrative Review of Injury Incidence, Location, and Injury Factor of Elite Athletes in Snowsport Events. Sports Medicine, 49(1), 117-134.